Although injuries, and even death, are a consistent facet of harvest, 2019 is on a collision course with heightened danger. A chaotic planting season extending well beyond spring necessitates a late fall harvest — opening the floodgates on a mad rush of activity. Whether related to the prolonged peril of wet grain storage or the immediate impact of machinery accidents, the increasing threat of a troubled 2019 harvest looms large for farmers.
A decade ago, the wet fall of 2009 serves as a billboard pointing forward to potential danger in 2019. In 2010, following the 2009 high-moisture harvest, 59 documented cases of grain entrapment were noted at agconfinedspaces.org — the highest number of entrapments on record for a single year. “Those 59 were just the ones recorded or reported on,” says Bill Field, the foremost authority on grain bin entrapments and engulfments and professor of agricultural health and safety at Purdue University. “The data shows what can happen with corn storage after a wet fall, and the high risk is here again for 2019.”
Keep It Clean
The No. 1 correlation between entrapments and storage facilities is housekeeping. A clean bin area is far less conducive to an accident, Field says.
However, the second-closest correlation is related to storage and grain moisture content.
“Put that grain in at 18%, 19% or higher and you can almost guarantee spoilage,” Field says. ”Farmers go with long-term storage, and that’s a huge potential problem when a guy leaves a 100,000-bu. bin full for a year.”
One Second Can Change Your Life
”This fall, farmers will push themselves and their equipment to the max, and we have to realize those are the times when people get hurt or killed,” says Fred Whitford, a clinical engagement professor at Purdue University and director of Purdue Pesticide Programs. “I bet 90% of these accidents could have been stopped, but we were wore out and going too fast — weariness and high speed. Take a power nap for 20 minutes out of the day, and be aware of who is driving your vehicles.”
Each year, Whitford encounters producers carrying a “can’t happen to me” attitude. “It makes no difference if you’ve never had an accident in 40 years. Just think of all your near-misses. In a second, what did or didn’t take place could have been catastrophic.”
Whitford urges farmers to place “slow-moving” signs on the back of equipment for safety and legal purposes. He stresses the importance of clean windshields and proper lighting as well as minding driving speeds and railroad crossings.